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Wild Boy

Wild Boy

5.0 1
by Rob Lloyd Jones, James Clamp (Performed by)

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Murder mystery meets carnival flair in a rollicking Victorian adventure centered on a boy with a unique appearance — and unique gifts.

In the seedy underworld of Victorian London, a boy is born and abandoned. Snatched up by an unscrupulous and abusive showman, Wild Boy, covered in hair from head to toe, becomes a sideshow freak. Isolated from other


Murder mystery meets carnival flair in a rollicking Victorian adventure centered on a boy with a unique appearance — and unique gifts.

In the seedy underworld of Victorian London, a boy is born and abandoned. Snatched up by an unscrupulous and abusive showman, Wild Boy, covered in hair from head to toe, becomes a sideshow freak. Isolated from other children and wickedly abused by the cruel master who bought him, Wild Boy becomes an avid observer, developing Sherlock Holmes–like deductive skills. Although he is tormented and insulted, kicked and spat at, his quick mind takes in everything he sees. When a murder occurs at the fair, Wild Boy is hastily accused. Can he use his powers of deduction to save himself? And will the talented and spunky young acrobat Clarissa be with him — or against him? Readers will be swept along by the cinematic pace, immersed in the vivid historical setting, and gripped by suspense as they wait to find out if a better fate could possibly await someone so very different.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal - Audio
★ 12/01/2013
Gr 5–8—The carnival is coming to town, complete with a travelling freak show. Its newest member, purchased by the routinely violent and drunk showman, is Wild Boy, so named because he is covered head to toe in hair. Abandoned as a baby on the steps of a workhouse, Wild Boy learned that the best was to survive being taunting and beaten was to keep silent—but he was always watching everything. When a fellow carny member is murdered, Wild Boy must join forces with his archnemesis, Clarissa, a young acrobat, to prove their innocence. He uses his amazing, Sherlock Holmes-like deduction skills to solve the mystery. Along the way, he makes a few friends, painfully loses one, and is taken under the wing of the Lord Mayor. After a double-take revealing of the murderer, listeners learn that "there are (more) puzzles to be solved," leaving the door open for sequels. Jones's brilliant writing (Candlewick, 2013) paints a vivid picture of the seedy, murky underworld of Victorian London: sewage and rats, slinking shadows, and secret tunnels hidden behind picture frames. The talented narration of James Clamp brings the story to life with unique voices, such as the hooded man's slithering, gritty hiss, and his tones and inflections when describing inanimate objects (greasy cobbles, lamplight's queasy glow, slimy nets). A top pick!—Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH
Publishers Weekly
After eight grueling years in a London workhouse, an extremely hairy orphan is taken by "Carnival King" Augustus T. Finch, dubbed Wild Boy, and advertised as "the missing link between man and bear!" The year is 1841, and the traveling circus subjects 11-year-old Wild Boy to cruelty, prejudice, and abuse, but also sharpens his observation skills: "It was just what came from years of being locked up with nothing to do but watch the world and dream that he was someone else." When a doctor and professor are found dead nearby, Wild Boy and a fellow circus performer and amateur thief, Clarissa, turn into suspects on the run, with an ominous stolen note in hand about a futuristic machine designed for ethically dubious purposes. Elements of classic detective stories unfold against a magnetic vintage carnival backdrop, and the narrative maintains levity despite Wild Boy's maltreatment. British author/editor Jones delivers a message about true friendship through Clarissa who learns to love Wild Boy—not as a spectacle, but as an individual whose struggles have contributed to his substance and complexity. Ages 10–up. Agent: Clare Conville, Conville & Walsh Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Veronica Bartles
Wild Boy is an orphan. Abused and neglected all his life, because he looks different from the other children, he hopes that the showman who comes to adopt him will lead to a better future. But a better future is not in the cards for Wild Boy, a “freak” covered in hair and billed as a monster in a circus sideshow. Wild Boy spends his days watching the people who come to stare at him in the circus. He develops Sherlock Holmes-like powers of observation, which allow him insights into the intimate lives of these spectators and his fellow circus performers. When Wild Boy witnesses a murder, and he is blamed for the crime; only his gift of observation can bring the true criminal to justice and prove his own innocence. And when his investigation reveals a magical machine with the promise to make him just like everyone else, Wild Boy must decide where his loyalties truly lie. Set in the gritty streets of 1841 London, this story gives readers a taste of unvarnished history while sweeping them up in a captivating mystery. Children who struggle with being “different” will appreciate Wild Boy’s struggle to become a better version of himself, in spite of those who tell him he will never measure up. Reviewer: Veronica Bartles AGERANGE: Ages 12 up.
VOYA - Kelly Czarnecki
Wild Boy is so named for being covered almost completely in hair. He was beaten and made fun of and felt the only future for himself was as a sideshow freak in the carnival. He does not realize, at first, that his attention to detail, like Sherlock Holmes, is a gift that is rare and beneficial. It is Victorian London and Wild Boy gets caught up in a dangerous game of murder. He is adamant that he did not kill the professor, but no one seems to believe him. That is, until he decides to find the killer himself to prove his innocence. Wild Boy teams up with acrobat Clarissa who is not afraid of heights and is also facing her own accusations of being involved. Carnival sounds, smells, and ruthless characters help make up this action packed journey Wild Boy and Clarissa take to stop the killer from taking down anyone else. The duo does not realize it, but they are about to expose a secret society and uncover a machine that aims to bring people to life and is, apparently, worth dying for. Teens who like mysteries and attention to detail will enjoy this period book. While some of the action seems to drag at times, it will not take readers long to warm up to Wild Boy and Clarissa and cheer them on to the end. Readers will appreciate the twists and turns thrown in and will learn a lot about the Victorian era on the way. Reviewer: Kelly Czarnecki
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Sherlock Holmes meets Oliver Twist in this mystery set in a carnival of oddities in 1841 London. A boy moves from a wretched workhouse to Augustus T. Finch's traveling carnival, hoping to belong somewhere. Feared and reviled because thick hair covers his entire body, the child knows only the name "Wild Boy." This hirsute hero assuages his loneliness by observing passersby, analyzing minute clues to peel back details of their lives. Wild Boy and another circus child, Clarissa, become involved in a mystery of their own when a hooded man murders carnival member and eccentric scientist Henry Wollstonecraft over his curous "machine." Framed for the crime, Wild Boy must use his detective skills to clear his name, but he becomes even more invested when he learns the machine might be able to make him look "normal." Jones explores the traditional themes of acceptance and identity. Wild Boy comes to accept his knack for detective work and faces a choice between honoring his friendship with Clarissa and personal gain. The mystery unravels along well-trodden paths. As soon as Wild Boy tells the audience that he trusts a certain character above all others, savvy readers will guess at that character's guilt. While many novels express with greater originality the theme of coming to terms with society's judgments, this one may appeal to children who like unusual characters and quirky historical settings in their detective stories.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Wild Boy's head-to-toe fur has garnered him scorn and abuse from commoners, but his extraordinary intellectual gifts eventually win him a future with a powerful, elite group called the Gentlemen. Wild Boy has been featured in a freak show for three years, having willingly left his deplorable orphanage/workhouse at age 8. The cockney patterns that litter his speech belie powers of observation and deduction that rival those of Sherlock Holmes; not surprisingly, the story's setting is the smoke-shrouded, industrial London of 1841. When Wild Boy is about to be hanged by the unseemly circus crew for a murder he did not commit, teen acrobat Clarissa helps him escape. Together, they follow clues through sewers and back alleys, learning about an extraordinary electrical device linked to the murder: "The machine what changes you." At one point, Wild Boy considers using the machine to de-freak himself, but far more narration is devoted to action-packed episodes than to self-reflection. Amusing accounts of his reasoning skills contrast with depictions of violence, gore and depravity. This semihistorical novel is long on steampunk imagery--"the metal brain trembled and buzzed"--and short on characterization. Classism lurks beneath the surface of this fantastical adventure story that misses a good many opportunities to plumb the depths. (Adventure. 9-14)

Product Details

Candlewick on Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Rob Lloyd Jones is the author of more than thirty books, primarily historical nonfiction and adaptations of classic literature. He writes for television and is a senior editor at Usborne. Rob Lloyd Jones lives in London.

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Wild Boy 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BooksAplenty More than 1 year ago
Freak Show and a Murder Mystery Premise: Wild Boy is a freak. Born fully covered in long brown hair, he has no future except as a freak show oddity in the circus. When he and a fellow circus star are accused of murder, they must find the real killer to clear their names. Three adjectives that describe this book: gritty, exciting, memorable Wild Boy Book Review: Rob Lloyd Jones has combined some seriously interesting elements in this terrific novel. The main characters of Wild Boy and Clarissa are wonderfully crafted and deliciously complex. The struggles of both will stick with me for a long time - Wild Boy is mocked and abused, relegated to life as an outsider just because of how he looks. How can you view yourself as anything but worthless when people can pay a penny to kick you, and even your guardians call you Monster? The setting of Victorian London was the perfect backdrop for this gritty story. Our characters tromp through the dark reaches of society - alleys, sewers, circuses, and even The Tower of London. This is no glorified, upper class society. I found it wholly engrossing. And the mystery? A shadowy group of men is either being murdered or murdering others... or maybe both. Wild Boy and Clarissa solve the case using skill. Wild Boy has terrific powers of observation and deduction. The passages that detail his observations and conclusions are wonderfully written. Think Sherlock Holmes. Clarissa is an acrobat. She scrambles up the sides of buildings and wriggles her way into off-limits areas. Together they make a terrific team. Overall, this new novel is a must read. It would also be a great introduction to mysteries and/or historical fiction for readers who might, otherwise, shy away from these genres. Content Appropriate For: Grades 4-7